HUNTINGTON — As it turns out, Marshall and West Virginia alumni will not square off in The Basketball Tournament.
The highly anticipated Herd That-Best Virginia matchup is off after Best Virginia withdrew from the tournament following a player testing positive for COVID-19. Best Virginia is being replaced by Playing for Jimmy V, who will play Herd That in the final game of the first round on July 5 in Columbus, Ohio.
“This is a safety-first event,” said Jon Mugar, TBT’s founder and chief executive officer, in a release. “We’re disappointed for the Best Virginia players and fans that they won’t get an opportunity to compete in TBT 2020, and our thoughts are with the player for a speedy recovery.”
According to release, Best Virginia alerted TBT to the positive test on June 18, which prompted TBT to initiate its pre-tournament protocol with medical advisor Dr. Tom Hospel. Given the timing, Best Virginia could have went into a 14-day self-quarantine while undergoing frequent testing and still played. Yet the team would not have been able to practice during that period, hindering its ability to prepare properly.
Due to the circumstances, Best Virginia made the decision to withdraw from the 24-team field in an announcement made Monday.
Best Virginia took to social media to thank its fans while sharing its disappointment.
“We are not just sad for our own chances to play, but what this team meant to so many in West Virginia,” the team released on social media. “It is the love for the Mountaineers that prompted us to form this team, and keeps us going to play and practice harder and harder....
“We love you, West Virginia. We’re sorry we can’t play for you this year.”
The disappointment falls on both sides of the matchup as Herd That team members also wanted the opportunity to face their in-state rivals. Herd That tweeted Monday that the team’s thoughts and prayers were with Best Virginia.
“Was really excited to matchup with you all and represent our state on national TV,” the team wrote. “We wish everyone good health and hope to see you all next year.”
The last time Marshall and WVU competed against each other was the 2018 NCAA tournament. Four members of Herd That — Jon Elmore, Ot Elmore, C.J. Burks and Rondale Watson — and two members of Best Virginia — Daxter Miles and Logan Routt — were in that game.
Herd That point guard Stevie Browning discussed the importance and excitement for the matchup last week when the pairings were announced.
“Man, it’s special to me because it’s still a rivalry game,” Browning said. “It’s that one that everyone wants to see. This is the only type of basketball that’s going on, and it’s a Marshall-WVU game? Man, it doesn’t get any better than that. That’s big-time!”
While the in-state feel of the game is now gone, there are a couple of Mountain State connections still worth noting as Herd That now prepares to face Playing for Jimmy V.
Playing for Jimmy V is led by former Huntington Prep point guard Josh Perkins, who went on to star at Gonzaga, and includes Haywood Highsmith, who has played for both the Philadelphia 76ers and the Delaware Blue Coats of the G-League and was a Division II All-American at Wheeling University.